Google announced a new algorithm update is coming that will incorporate metrics designed to judge a users’ experience when interacting with a web page. This new algorithm update has very creatively been named the "Google Page Experience Update” and will become a live ranking factor sometime in early 2021. The update will use a combination of new or updated metrics to determine if users will have a negative experience on your page. A cumulation of negative experiences will result in Google decreasing that page’s ranking in search results.
Luckily, Google has provided a list of what elements they will be measuring and enough time to make sure you make all necessary changes.
Page experience is the merger of speed and user experience. In addition to taking into account page load speed, page experience considers if a website is secure, mobile-friendly, and easily accessible. The metric also assesses the users’ ability to smoothly engage with on-page features.
Google defines page experience as, “a set of signals that measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page beyond its pure information value. It includes Core Web Vitals, which is a set of metrics that measure real-world user experience for loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability of the page.”
Now that we have a better understanding of page experience, let's see why page experience is essential to both users and Google.
Users today expect fast page load speeds, intuitive navigation, seamless interaction with on-page elements, and the ability to find the information they feel is essential quickly. When these expectations are not met, they can hold serious implications.
Put simply, page experience affects your site's reputation and revenue. A recent study found that 66 percent of online customers said a website's performance influences their impression of the company, and that 79 percent of online customers who reported dissatisfaction with a website’s performance are less likely to buy again.
After seeing the adverse reactions of people who have poor experiences, there is no wonder why Google has decided to place a higher focus on rewarding websites that provide better experiences in search results and devalue underperforming sites.
Google stated that page experience itself will not have a single ranking score but will be a collection of multiple metrics to provide a holistic picture. Each metric individually will hold its weight in Google's overall algorithm. However, when grouped, it will allow judgment of page experience as a whole. Below is a breakdown of all the elements included under the new page experience umbrella.
Core web vitals apply to all web pages and are used to measure specific real-world aspects of user experience. Over time, these core vitals will grow and evolve as developers create ways to track and measure new quality metrics.
As of June 2020, the current set of web vitals include three aspects of user experience metrics; loading (LCP), interactivity (FID), and visual stability (CLS).
The largest contentful paint (LCP) metric is an accurate way to measure when the content of a page is loaded. It accomplishes this by reporting the render time of the most significant content element visible. To provide a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading.
The First Input Delay (FID) metric aids in measuring your site's interactivity and responsiveness. FID measures the time between the user's first interaction with your website, for example, from when they click on a link to when the browser is able to respond to the interaction. To provide a good user experience, sites should strive to have a First Input Delay of less than 100 milliseconds.
The Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) metric assists you in understanding how often unexpected shifts occur during the lifespan of a page. For example, text or buttons jumping without warning. The below GIF shared by Google will illustrate how layout instability can negatively affect users.
To provide a good user experience, pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1.
Mobile-friendly is an older metric. It has been a part of the search algorithm since 2015. It is rather straightforward in that it measures whether your website is mobile-friendly or not. It does so by looking at font sizes, tap targets, links, and the readability of content. To test if your website is mobile-friendly, use Google's mobile-friendly testing tool.
Google has been working to protect its users from malware, unwanted software, phishing scams, and social engineering policies for years. Safe Browsing will show warnings on dangerous websites or when users attempt to download files that may be dangerous or could contain viruses. You can check to see if your site has any safe browsing issues via the Google Search Console security issues report.
HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) is an internet protocol that protects the integrity of data between a computer and the website. Make sure your website is served over HTTPS. To check if your website's connection is secure, open your web page in Google's Chrome browser and look to the left of the web address. If secure, you will see a padlock icon.
In 2017, Google started cracking down on intrusive interstitials because they make content less accessible to users. Interstitials are displays that typically pop-up often right after the expected content loads, usually an advertisement. Below are examples of interstitial pop-ups that make your web content less accessible.
If your site is currently running spammy pop-up ads, look into alternative ways to serve ads on your website.
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) will no longer be required for the Top Stories section for mobile search results. In 2016, Google announced that moving forward only AMP pages would be eligible to show up on the mobile version of top stories. This will be reversed once the new Page Experience Update goes live in 2021.
With Google's announcement of the new page experience update, they are placing a higher value on user experience. This is good news, both for users and for site owners alike. The introduction of Core Web Vitals, coupled with several existing user experience ranking factors, allows for developers, SEO experts, and site owners to start testing and making improvements well ahead of the 2021 update.
Google has provided new assessment tools or updated old tools to help you find and make any recommended improvements.
This update will not be rolled out until an undetermined date in 2021, and Google has promised a six-month warning. Many times, Google has just released core updates without notice and leaving SEO strategists, developers, and site owners scrambling.
However, Google has shifted tactics for this release. We have all been provided with advanced notice, tools, and the guidelines we need to prepare and make any changes well in advance. Let's all work together and take advantage of this opportunity. In the end, our users will thank us, and Google will rank us.